Can/should I sue my former employer if they shorted my paycheck after I gave notice?

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Can/should I sue my former employer if they shorted my paycheck after I gave notice?

I worked as an underpaid overworked cook at a restaurant. I found a better opportunity so I

put my 2 week notice in. Later that day, after working through the rush I was informed to clock

out and that I was banned from the premises. This was chalked up to the owners being upset I’m leaving in the middle of the busy season and they are petty people. After receiving my last paycheck, I found it was 5 hours short and they docked my pay from $12/hr to $9.75/hr. Minimum wage in my state is $10/hr.

Asked on July 28, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you can sue your employer: an employer is obligated to pay hourly employees for all hours they work; must pay at least minimum wage; and while they can reduce employee wages (so long as they still earn at least minimum), they can only do so going forward (from the moment they announce for the change, for work done from that moment on), not retroactively, for work already done--work already done must be paid at the wage then in effect.
So you may sue. Whether you should is a cost-benefit decision. Say that you worked 35 hours that week: you should have earned 35 x $12, or $420. Say instead they paid you 30 hours at $9.75/hour, or $292.50. In this case, you were shorted $127.50--that's the amount of money you can sue for. Small claims court could take you a whole day of time, if they show for court and want a trial--is a day of your time worth the chance (a good chance, but still not certain; courts/judges sometimes do strange things) of getting $127.50 in this example?
You can figure out what is actually at stake for you using the example above: you can sue for the difference between what you were paid and what you should have been paid.


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